Yemen's Saleh orders protection for protesters
Updated: 2011-02-25 07:56
President seeks to avoid clashes between his supporters, opponents
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has ordered his security forces to protect demonstrators trying to end his 32-year rule, a statement said.
The statement, relayed by the Yemeni press attache in Washington on Thursday, said Saleh had "demanded security services to offer full protection for the demonstrators".
"Late this evening (Wednesday) ... Saleh instructed all security services to thwart all clashes and prevent direct confrontation between pro- and anti-government protesters ...
"Furthermore, the government calls on protesters to remain vigilant and take all precautionary steps to prevent the infiltrations of individuals seeking to carry out violent actions.
"The government ... will continue to protect the rights of its citizens to assemble peacefully and their right to freedom of expression," the statement said.
Fifteen people have been killed in unrest shaking Yemen since last week. Saleh has said he will not give in to what he described as opponents advocating anarchy.
Pro-Saleh loyalists wielding clubs and daggers have often sought to break up opposition protests in Sanaa and elsewhere.
Nine members of parliament have quit Saleh's ruling party in protest at what they described as government violence against demonstrators, parliamentarians said on Wednesday.
About 80 percent of lawmakers still back the president. "The people must have the right to demonstrate peacefully," said Abdulaziz Jubari, one of the MPs to resign.
Jubari said the assembly members had sent a 10-point letter to Saleh with demands for immediate reform and restructuring of the army to make it more representative of Yemen's complex society.
Saleh has already made significant verbal concessions to the opposition, promising to step down when his term ends in 2013 and not to try to bequeath power to his son.
But opposition parties are suspicious of his calls for dialogue because of the violence used against protesters.
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